Historic racing is more popular than ever thanks to the rebirth of Goodwood. But the festival and revival meetings are just the tip of the iceberg. Paul Lawrence is your guide.
Britain still boasts the biggest and most diverse historic racing scene and a new season of action is about to kick off
Historic motor racing is booming in Britain right now. In an era when you get only one chance to see contemporary grand prix cars — and have to pay handsomely for the privilege — the British motorsport public is voting with its feet and turning out in force for the host of big historic meetings that take place around the country each year. Only the British Grand Prix can boast a bigger crowd than the Goodwood Revival Meeting.
Before the main run of summer highlight events crank into action, the Historic Sports Car Club gets its season under way on Easter Sunday (April 11) at Donington Park. With a paddock crammed full of cars and grids bulging at the seams, this just has to be a great way to begin the 2004 season in an informal and relaxed environment.
Back at Donington Park three weeks later, the International Historic Donington Grand Prix over the Bank Holiday weekend of May 1-3 will be a pivotal event in the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association. Races for two grids of HGPCA single-seaters as well as a field of drum-braked sportscars may be joined by a special 100-mile HGPCA affair to mark the club’s birthday.
Star guests include the Thoroughbred Grand Prix cars and the European Sports Prototype Trophy field, which begins its season here. Given that it is now several seasons since the ESPT field raced in Britain, this is great news for lovers of late-1960s sports and GT machinery. Packing out a monster weekend of racing are the FIA Historic classes and mini-enduros for Carol Spagg’s splendid Gentlemen Drivers’ Trophy and Sports Racing Challenge.
Although not a dedicated classic meeting, the Civil Service Motoring Association weekend at Brands Hatch on May 22/23 is customarily a cracker for those who enjoy period cars and period aeroplanes. The racing is clubbie in nature, but when attractions such as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are added to the mix, it represents an entertaining event. A special attraction in 2004 will be demonstrations of Lotus Formula One cars from Classic Team Lotus.
For three days at the start ofJune (4-6), Silverstone plays host to a historic festival with major ambition. Organised jointly by the Vintage Sports Car Club and the Historic Sports Car Club, and promoted by former Octagon front man Robin Murphy, the event features racing on all three days from a host of high-level series, as well as HSCC and VSCC events. ESPT and the FORCE Classic GP series are the star acts for what has been dubbed the Silverstone Tribute Meeting.
A week later, the glorious Cadwell Park circuit in Lincolnshire reverberates to the echoes of VSCC machinery in action. Sunday June 13 is the date for the club’s annual visit to the marvellously threedimensional track, with a typical blend of scratch and handicap races, including the Shuttleworth and Nuffield Trophy.
Mid-summer is dominated by the Goodwood Festival of Speed on June 25-27. The 2004 theme is ‘Young Chargers, Old Masters’, while other celebrations will commemorate 75 years of the Monaco Grand Prix and Ayrton Senna’s decade of brilliance in Fl. As ever, around 200 of the most diverse competition vehicles imaginable will tackle the hill in the grounds of Goodwood House.
The Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit is sadly underused these days, but for one weekend a year the wooded valleys are pierced by the noise of historic racing engines. The HSCC Superprix
on July 17/18 gives historic racers the chance to tackle Hawthorns, Westfield and Stirlings and the result is packed grids and wall-to-wall racing. Joining the HSCC championships will be International Supersports and the Swiss-based Euro Formula Two cars.
Beloved by so many fans of the 1960s, the 1-litre Formula Three era will be celebrated at Silverstone on Saturday July 31 in a BRDC-run event The Peter Hanson Trophy awaits the F3 race winner, while a pre-war sportscar race will run into the early evening and finish with a celebration in front of the BRDC clubhouse.
The weekend ofJuly 31/August 1 is the new date for the Mount Stuart Motorsport Classic on the Isle of Bute. Growing each year in stature, the event gives fans in Scotland the chance to witness some rare and historic cars in action in the grounds of Mount Stuart House.
Now well beyond its 50th birthday, Castle Combe remains one of the best club racing venues in Britain with facilities that eclipse most of the so-called premier tracks. Once a year, the circuit is turned over to a day of largely HSCC championships and it makes for a glorious day out. A round of the Historic Racing Saloon Register Championship is a highlight of the meeting.
Another of the landmark events on the British calendar is the Oulton Park Gold Cup over the Bank Holiday weekend of August 29/30. Heading into its third year, the HSCC-organised event has yet to really hit the big time in terms of an historic racing festival, but the potential is clear.
Oulton Park is a fabulous venue with a great history, and the support of the HGPCA ensures some excellent machinery. A real bonus for northern racing fans is the addition of the ESFT, which evokes memories of the Tourist Trophy races of the late 1960s. If the event can focus more on headline races rather than simply cramming the programme in order to pay the track hire fee, it could become one of the biggest historic and classic race meetings of the British season.
The first weekend of September (3-5) is Revival time at Goodwood, with three days of action in the most unique and wonderful environment in the world. Such is the popularity of the Revival, and the Festival of Speed, that both events will be open only to advance ticket purchasers for 2004.
Saturday September 11 is the big day in the Aston Martin racing calendar with the St John Horsfall meeting at Silverstone. However, the same weekend is the major Ferrari-based event at Donington Park, which combines with the VSCC meeting under the ‘See Red’ title. As well as the Shell Historic Ferrari/Maserati Challenge and a full programme of VSCC events, a special focus is a race for ERA and ERA-engined cars to mark the 70th anniversary of the evocative manufacturer.
With the big events of the season done and dusted, one event stands out at the end of the year for fans of historic racing. Sunday October 10 is the Top Hat Race Day at Mallory Park, with races for all manner of period saloons and sportscars under the wing ofJulius Thurgood’s company.
In summary, there is an unrivalled range of highprofile events on the 2004 calendar. Goodwood clearly retains its place at the pinnacle of historic and classic racing, but the meetings at Donington Park (May and September), Silverstone (June), Brands Hatch (July) and Oulton Park (August) promise to be memorable events. Make sure you get to at least one of them. 11